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Artists- Tess Leak, Sarah Ruttle, Mentor designer Orlagh O’Brien


Bantry Day Care Centre, Clonakilty & Castletownbere Community Hospital

Community Hospital Clonakilty and Bantry D.C.C. 'Arboretum' art project June 2015 Arts for Health West Cork

Participants on the Arts for Health partnership programme in Castletownbere Community Hospital, Bantry Day Care Centre and Clonakilty Community Hospital worked with artists Tess Leak and Sarah Ruttle on a collection of creative writings and ‘Haiga’ illustrations (Japanese ink drawings). This inquisitive project resulted in a limited edition book called ‘Arboretum’  compiled by the artists.

Following on from a series of lively and thoughtful conversations about favourite trees, participants collaborated with the artists in the creation of short pieces of writing. Many were inspired by ‘Haiku’ (a poetic form originating from Japan) and others are more prose-like in their nature. In the two hospitals, the writing sessions were often ‘one to one’ but in Bantry Day Care Centre the whole group contributed to each piece.

In the autumn, Tess and Sarah worked with designer Orlagh O’Brien from Haiku Island Press to create by hand this limited edition book of the collection. The cover features a print of a ‘Haiga’  created collectively by the participants in Clonakilty Hospital.

Because this project was rolled out in three hospital settings at the same time, it meant that Tess and Sarah (as ‘poetry-messengers’ !) could share the traveling poems and responses with participants from different places. It was interesting, for example, for participants in Clonakilty hospital to hear what their fellows in Castletownbere has to say about their favorite trees. And often the chosen trees- the subjects of the poems- related to significant places and events in the lives of their writers….for example:

the Plane tree
for the way it purifies the air
in smoggy cities

this referenced one participants time working in London….


tall eucalyptus
in Dehru Dun, India
silver bark, long, tapering leaves

was related to a memory of a woman’s time spent teaching in India


the Sycamore for its seeds
that we flew like aeroplanes
as children in summer
at Colomane West

(a memory from childhood)

often the choices revealed the importance of a trees function:

the majestic Yew, for its longevity
and the way it disguises
the smell of the piggery


the Beech for its seasoned wood
to make a bridge for the violin of
my music teacher Miss Fox
Because the subject of favorite trees was non-threatening, accessible and inclusive, the poems that grew out of these conversations could become full of meaning, place and memory.

The design of the limited edition book, in collaboration with Orlagh O’Brien,added to the atmosphere of contemplation that ran throughout the project: with its spacious lay-out of content, ink drawn ‘Haiga’ and hand-folded end-papers. The semi-transparent paper created a layered text that was bark-like, reminding the reader of where the material came from.



During the spring and summer of 2015